Two of Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane’s longtime political allies on the City Council have parted ways with her on two of the most controversial issues of the year.
Council members Kay Crowder and Russ Stephenson, whose campaigns McFarlane donated to prior to October’s elections, took opposite stances from the mayor on issues related to property rights and employee salaries.
With dozens of activists picketing outside City Hall for public safety employee raises on Monday, McFarlane sought to address salaries next year. The proposed city budget includes a 3 percent pay raise for police officers and firefighters, but their unions are asking for 5 to 15 percent.
McFarlane said the city should wait to boost salaries for emergency responders until after a consulting firm completes a study on employee pay next spring. The city is spending $150,000 to see how all of its employee salaries compare locally and nationally.
Crowder, who McFarlane picked as her Mayor Pro Tem, and Stephenson often align with McFarlane, but they both said public safety employees deserved higher raises now.
Crowder and Stephenson also parted ways with McFarlane in a 4-4 vote on June 7, when the City Council considered new short-term residential rental regulations.
McFarlane said she wanted to take more time to think about proposed regulations, which would have prohibited residents from renting out their entire homes for short periods of time through online services like Airbnb and VRBO. Crowder and Stephenson supported the whole-house ban, with Stephenson drawing boos from the crowd.
Crowder and Stephenson’s dissent from McFarlane had no effect on either of the outcomes. In both cases, McFarlane’s side got its way.
McFarlane and Crowder downplay their differences.
“We all agree that there’s a problem. We’ve just got to figure out how to fix it,” Crowder said, referring to their differences on salaries, specifically. “I think ultimately we will get there ... We just have different ways of going about it.”
But the votes raise questions about the bonds McFarlane created during the election. Former mayor Charles Meeker said he “certainly” wanted his friends on the council to back him up on important issues. But Meeker said he found, especially with Stephenson, support was sometimes hard to rally.
“As mayor, by far the biggest challenge is getting the City Council to agree on how to move forward,” Meeker said, adding that council members shouldn’t harbor grudges over their differences. “You might need their support in the next meeting.”
▪ U.S. Secretary of Transportation and former Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx is scheduled to speak Monday at a WakeUP Wake County event about how robust transit programs have “transformed communities across the nation.” The event begins at 7 p.m. at the Raleigh Convention Center, 500 S. Salisbury St. Free and open to the public, but registration encouraged. For information, go to www.wakeupwakecounty.org.
▪ Democratic candidates for the state House and Senate who represent portions of western Wake County will appear at the Western Wake Dems meeting at Mellow Mushroom, 4300 N.W. Cary Parkway, on Wednesday, June 29. Social hour begins at 6 p.m., followed by the program at 7 p.m. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Compiled by Paul A. Specht.
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